Christmas is definitely not a traditional Korean holiday, but that is not to say it isn’t celebrated, or doesn’t have any Korean flair to it!
Firstly, there are the K-Pop bops. All I Want for Christmas is You does have a place here, but idol groups also prepare for the festive season. Whether it’s BlackPink’s cover of Last Christmas, Twice’s Merry & Happy, or Starship Planet’s highly nostalgic Snow Candy, there’s a track for everyone.
Another feature typical not just in South Korea, but Asia as a whole, is that the shops stay open on Christmas day! Christmas is not considered a holiday, and is generally only celebrated by couples. People go to work, children go to school and traditional festivities are saved for the New Year.
If you were to take a stroll around Seoul on 25th December, you’d see plenty of festive window displays as well as the street illuminations. The most popular of these are at the Lotte World theme park! (To be honest, who wouldn’t want to spend the holidays on rollercoasters and ice skating!)
But that is not to say that there is no traditional, Christian style of Christmas being celebrated in the country. Korea has a large amount of Christians, and those individuals often focus on Christmas as being the birth of Christ as opposed to the modern-day interpretation. Myeong-dong Cathedral is lit up and hosts a midnight mass!
It is clear that although Christmas is not native to Korea, it does have its place in the country. Arguably events such as the illuminations are even more so important after this year. The Seoul Lantern Festival is still going on this year, but there are no collective gatherings being held. Instead, there is a message of hope being posted and an interactive treasure hunt that you can do on your phone. If anything, it’s a sign that everyone is after a small slice of normality after a highly unusual year.